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View From the (Very) Top: Sticking around just one more year

Published: December 2, 2011
Section: Features


When I first told my parents that I was considering staying at Brandeis for a fifth year to get my master’s degree in Global Studies, they were very skeptical. They thought I was signing up for another year of crazy parties and drunken shenanigans with my friends. To be honest, a part of me hoped that was for what I was signing up. As a current student, applying to graduate school here was a breeze. My GRE scores were waived (which was good, because I didn’t take the GRE), and it was very easy for me to schedule my interview. It didn’t really feel like I was going to graduate school at all, more like I was opting to extend my undergrad experience. I could never have predicted how much my life would actually change.

Growing up, my family moved around a lot and, unfortunately, I never really liked many of the places where we lived. Part of the reason that staying at Brandeis was so attractive was because Brandeis feels like more of a home than anywhere else I have lived in the past 12 years. This also made the prospect of leaving somewhat terrifying.

Even though I am still at Brandeis and it still feels like home, however, many things are different. After living on campus for four years, I now live in an off-campus apartment, which is a big change in itself. Almost all of my friends from my first year are gone, and I hardly get to see those who are still here. Academically, I am challenged much more than I was as an undergrad. The papers are longer, the readings are denser, and now I am the graduate student leading discussion sections, instead of the student in the back who is doing anything but paying attention. At nine people, the program is also very small, especially when compared to the 200-plus community of undergraduate International and Global Studies majors.

All of these differences have positive aspects. I’ve made some new friends and I’ve become closer with people whom I’ve known from my years as an undergraduate. I’m definitely learning a lot; the fact that I am able to lead a discussion section (barely) for an undergraduate class is a testament to that. Also, the size of the program makes it much more intimate. Even though we’re a really diverse group (the age range is 22 to 32, some of us are single and some of us are married), we’ve become pretty close-knit over the past few months. I don’t really have any comparatively similar undergraduate experience, but it is something I have enjoyed about my program here.

Staying at Brandeis to do my master’s has had other benefits as well. While it is true that I am spending another year in the same place, this familiarity has really allowed me to be academically engaged. I’m not distracted by a new environment or possessed with the desire to explore my surroundings when I should be doing research for my thesis. I also haven’t needed to worry about making friends, as I have plenty of friends still here. I do appreciate the friends that I have made this year, but it has been nice not to need to worry about building up a whole new social network.

While the first few weeks were filled with annoying “He doesn’t even go here!” jokes, getting my master’s at Brandeis has definitely been the right choice for me. The program is great, and staying in a familiar environment has had many advantages. Next year I might be moving to Japan to teach English, so I think I deserve another year living somewhere that I am comfortable. In many ways, this program is an easier way to transition into the “real” world. Most of my close friends are scattered across the world, meaning I will have one less major adjustment to make when I leave Brandeis.